Randy Leedy on Greek Pedagogy

by Dec 13, 2012Linguistics, NTScholarship

  1. Logos Bible Software has put out a new first-year Greek/Hebrew course that is apparently selling like hotcakes and promises to eliminate memorization of vocab and paradigms and focus immediately on language use in exegesis and sermon prep.
  2. Rod Decker’s most recent blog post takes issue with the marketing copy attached to the new program. I share Dr. Decker’s skepticism about any course of Greek study which promises to be “quick and easy,” though I think it better not to be skeptical as he is about Logos Bible Software’s profit motives. And I’m open to considering that existing pedagogical methods leave something to be desired and that new approaches are called for.
  3. One of the progenitors of Logos’ new program, Michael Heiser, took very personal issue with Decker’s post. He makes serious charges that I think traditional NT Greek teachers will want to be aware of—because they’re going to come from students if they haven’t already.

I think this is a conversation worth having, though it’s not a new one. What is new is the possibility of new kinds of courses and course delivery methods enabled by technology. And from what I can tell based on the promo videos, this new course makes extensive use of new tools made available only through Logos Bible Software.

Because I don’t feel qualified to weigh in, I contacted my own Greek professor (and dissertation committee chairman), Dr. Randy Leedy, for his perspective. I felt his response was balanced and helpful, reflecting as it does a great deal of time spent in teaching Greek and thinking about how to do it best. I have highlighted one comment of his in particular below, one that points to the big reason for this blog’s many posts on language. Here’s Dr. Leedy:

I understand where the Logos guy is coming from; for decades, reaching back before my own involvement, we at BJU have recognized the phenomenon he’s talking about, and we’ve been working incrementally to engage our students in exegesis more and more methodically. I like to think that a substantial percentage of our graduates who are in ministry do use their Greek on a weekly basis, at a level at least as advanced as the Logos study program is aiming for. Since Logos’ new software is only aiming for intelligent use of exegetical commentaries, I like to think that our percentage on the Hebrew side is not much lower than on the Greek.

Of course, if our programs don’t do anything more for the students who do use Greek and Hebrew this way than the “accelerated” approach does, then Logos still has a case for superior value. But I’d argue that simply using Hebrew and Greek isn’t a valid learning outcome; apart from reasonable competence and accuracy in that use, it’s simply misuse. My claim would be that students can’t learn to use exegetical commentaries with competence and accuracy without learning the larger context of how language in general works and how these particular languages work. Our Greek program does not aim to train consumers of exegesis; it aims to train producers, since exegesis is the sort of thing that, for the most part, only those competent to produce are also competent to evaluate as consumers

In this do-it-yourself age, I wonder how many people have injured or killed themselves or have wasted both time and money trying to do things for themselves that they are not qualified to do? They go on the internet, find the instructions for how to do something, and then tackle the job. I’ve done the same thing. It works fine as long as your assessment of your ability to do the job is accurate—which includes knowing when to call in an expert instead of trying it yourself. But people are not well served when complex or dangerous jobs are made to look so easy that any idiot can do them. Our lawsuit-happy legal climate exerts a healthy influence on web sites that might otherwise promote dangerous do-it-yourselfing, but there’s no such check on unskilled exegesis. So people are going to take the shortcuts, congratulate themselves on their wisdom in doing so, encourage others to do the same, and propagate various mixtures of good and bad interpretation of Scripture as a result. But this is nothing new, and a program like Logos’s might not make things any worse. We can warn and plead for sanity; then we must trust the Lord to keep the guild alive and well and to grant people the discernment to perceive the value of what we’re here to do for them.

I don’t think I’d want to say that nobody should take the shortcut route. I would say that there is spiritual danger and a failure that’ll be answered for on judgment day if Logos or others who ought to know better market their products with a lack of accuracy and honesty, which would include letting the customer know, on the front end as well as now and then throughout the course, that (s)he should not cherish an illusion of having attained the equivalent of several years of diligent and well-directed language study. Show the students what they can do in exegesis with what you’ve taught them, but also show them examples of some of the kinds of things they can’t do with confidence. A program that’s honest about itself along lines like this could be a great blessing to people who will never have the opportunity for more intensive study.

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